Tag Archives: TV

Terry Smith: Now that PURE is over, what’s the verdict?

by Terry M. Smith

The CBC six-part drama series PURE, about a Mennonite pastor dealing with drug-running within his congregation, is over. What’s the verdict?

To my Canadian ears of mostly British ancestry, somewhat trained by decades within Mennonite circles, the often poor quality of the German dialects used became jarring. That Rosie Perez’s character has an Irish surname was an odd choice.

For drug lord Eli Voss to say that he turned from God after a drunk driver killed his wife and children does not explain his murderous shift. Voss would be familiar with the Book of Job, the exploration of suffering through a man who faces a similar tragedy and yet emerges with his complex faith tested but intact.

Further, when preacher Noah’s wife Anna says it’s wrong to ask the police for protection, this conflicts with Romans 13 and the Schleitheim Confession (an Anabaptist document of 1527), which say the state is to protect. (See Layton Friesen’s Oct. 2016 article You’re a Pacifist and You Called the Police?)

An ugly part is when Anna resists fleeing and manipulates enforcer Joey into thinking that if he kills his sub-lord brother Gerry, she’d become his wife. After, she says Joey misunderstood and needs to ask for forgiveness. This is an unworthy depiction of a Mennonite preacher’s wife.

Preacher Noah points a handgun at Voss, then lowers it, prepared to let Voss shoot him rather than kill in self-defense. Only when Voss turns to kill the boy Ezekiel does Noah shoot him. The moral dilemma faced by Noah is addressed by EMC minister Jacob Enns in his book The Gentleman (self-published 2012, available at the national office or from the author). Killing a child and killing to protect a child are not on par.

The final scene shows Noah standing in the rain outside the church’s meeting place while his son Isaac is being baptized. (While Noah at times focuses too much on seeing God within each of us, the baptismal service concentrates more aptly on Jesus Christ.) My wife Mary Ann suggests that the rain symbolizes Noah’s need for cleansing—a counterpart to the baptismal service, I propose.

Noah cries as Anna hugs him, then walks away. What does his walking away mean? That he abandons his faith? This is inconsistent with Noah’s character throughout the series.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

More likely, Noah walks away because he feels unworthy before God. Yet he does not throw away the Bible, leaving it to soak in the rain and mud. He keeps it even as he has much to process.

Perhaps Noah will yet learn to further apply the grace of Christ to his own life, the grace he offered even a dying Voss. A more fitting ending would be for the bishop to go outside, walk Noah inside, and then kneel beside him in prayer—observed by Anna, his children, and the congregation.

Terry Smith: Are You Watching PURE?

by Terry M. Smith

In case you’ve missed it so far, the six-part CBC drama series PURE set in Canada focuses on a Mennonite minister dealing with drug-running within his community.

Some people are concerned that the practices of some Mennonite groups are being confused or inaccurately depicted. Still, pointing out inaccuracies does little to communicate effectively with some non-Mennonites who think Mennonite groups considered “conservative” and “traditional” are confusing and odd. I am content to let others spend their energy on this.

Another concern: Mennonites who deal in drugs—even if, in reality, a tiny group—should stop. The drug trade from Mexico to Canada harms Mennonites and others who are not involved in it. Violence does happen. We should support efforts to reduce the involvement and the violence.

I will watch the entire short series. The central concern of mine, as a minister, is how the series will ultimately portray the Christian faith. Will the series continue an all-too-common Canadian media portrayal of the Christian Church as outdated, powerless, and with morally ambiguous figures? Such a depiction conveniently reinforces values of secular Canadians, and is used to say that the Christian Church has lost the right to call people to conversion.

terry-smith
Terry M. Smith

Will preacher Noah and his family, in the end, give up their faith or will a chastened leader and congregation continue to serve Jesus Christ?

The script is putty in the director’s and producer’s hands, but given that Jesus, the most important figure in human history, rose from the dead after being rejected, the real value of the Christian Church, with its message and its community, is decided by Him.